State's attorney completes drug court evaluation
In an evaluation of the county's drug court program, DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell claims boundaries were blurred between drug court staff and participants, naming specific incidences involving the former public defender.
Local law enforcement informed the state's attorney's office earlier this year that a criminal investigation was under way involving a drug court graduate and the financial exploitation of a senior citizen through unlawful use of his credit card, and former DeKalb County Public Defender Regina Harris was involved in the incident, according to Campbell's evaluation.
When reached for comment Tuesday, Harris said a family member of a recent drug court graduate had allowed the graduate to use his credit card as long as she paid the bill. When the bill had mounted significantly and the woman was moving out of the family member's home, the man wanted something in writing that said the woman was responsible for the debt and would pay it back.
Harris said she put that in writing for the man, and that was the extent of her involvement in that situation.
The evaluation also mentions the same drug court graduate was arrested in Chicago for heroin possession while driving Harris' vehicle. Eleven bags of heroin were found in the car during a routine traffic stop, according to the evaluation, and the drug court graduate did not have a valid driver's license. Harris' car was impounded.
Harris said she loaned her vehicle to that same drug court graduate in March to attend legitimate appointments, and that was not how the car was used. Harris said she believed in this person and trusted her, "and that, obviously, was an error in judgment, no question about that." Harris said she informed the county's judges about the situation after it occurred.
Harris said she believes there are appropriate boundaries between staff and participants and they are followed. She said the situations mentioned in Campbell's evaluation may reflect poorly upon her, but they do not upon drug court itself or others involved with the program.
The evaluation, presented Monday night to the DeKalb County Board's law and justice committee, also mentions requests and recommendations for cutting drug court expenses and improving the program as a whole.
Campbell said in April no new applicants would be accepted into the DeKalb County Drug Court: Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now program until he completed an investigation into the effectiveness of the program.
He decided to investigate the program after receiving information that a drug court staff member had an inappropriate relationship with a drug court participant. That staff member resigned in June 2011.
In May, Campbell announced that new information had come to light that would prolong his investigation. At that point, new applicants were once again allowed into drug court.
The drug court is a voluntary program that requires participants to complete treatment, appear in court, undergo drug testing and more.
Participants receive treatment and rehabilitation in a five-phase program; each phase takes about three months. Those who don't complete phases face sanctions, including community service or having to redo phases.
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